Paula | Whitfords
Whitfords have sustainability at the heart of their natural skincare brand. From their 100% plastic free packaging to using upcycled ingredients and regenerative algae to deliver you efficacious skincare consciously.
We get to know Whitfords' founder and formulator Paula Ortega and learn the story of the brand since they launched in 2019.
What did you do before you started Whitfords?
I’m 49 now and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a very interesting and varied professional life. My curiosity has taken me into completely unimaginable directions! From opera singing to UX design, online marketing, jewellery manufacturing and just before Whitfords, working as an environmental artist, making small wearable and non-wearable sculptures with a bioplastic material I developed myself.
What was the inspiration for your brand?
Even though art and skincare might seem very distanced, it was actually my work as an environmental artist what led me to study cosmetics formulation and create Whitfords. I had been working on raising awareness on our dependancy on fossil fuels and the huge plastic waste problem with world is facing and I wanted my work to have further reach and impact. Believe it or not, there are lots of similarities between making bioplastic and making skincare! I’m really passionate about materials, ingredients and processes and I have a problem-solving mindset. This helps a lot. When I’m in the lab, I’m in my element and entering the industry as an outsider has given me the advantage to be able to innovate and challenge the status quo.
Whitfords is also the result of my passion to create a business model that is also an honest model for my daughters: to live and make a living in a more sustainable manner.
What is Whitford's mission & vision?
Our vision is a world where people and businesses, large and small, have found responsible, sustainable and accountable ways to care for our skin, ourselves, our environment and our fellow species.
Our mission is to inspire and be a force for change within the beauty industry by carefully creating products that are both efficacious and sustainably made.
How is your skincare brand standing out from the crowd?
Our products are 100% plastic & petroleum-free. Not many skincare brands can say that and it’s a lot trickier than it sounds because plastic is everywhere and very difficult to avoid. When it comes to petroleum-derived ingredients, they are not necessary bad for your skin but they are not renewable, therefore not sustainable. Thousands of plant-derived cosmetic ingredients exist, and there is absolutely no good reason to incorporate petroleum into our skincare routines.
Our products are also gender-neutral, vegan-friendly and are formulated for sensitive skin.
Last year we created the FibrePod. This is a revolutionary outer packaging that protects our products while in stores and during shipping and then in contact with water transforms into a body or kitchen scrub – I actually use it on my face too, you just need to apply very little pressure if you have sensitive skin like me. The FibrePods are made of unprocessed loofah, which is a vegetable from the same family as the cucumber and replace energy-intense cardboard boxes.
What is your most popular product and why?
Our most popular product is our award-winning Hemp & Algae Face Cream. It’s aimed at those with normal to slightly oily skin but you can obviously regulate how much or how little you apply and where specifically you apply it – e.g. less on your T-zone if you have oilier skin there -, so it’s quite versatile. It has a matte finish and a very silky feel on application.
It’s a really powerful cocktail that combines the anti-inflammatory and soothing benefits of hemp and green micro-algae with mushroom-derived hyaluronic acid for hydration, ectoin natural for pollution shielding, wrinkle improvement and damage repair, as well as salicylic acid from willow bark for its anti-microbial, cell renewal and antioxidant properties. It does not disappoint!
What’s the best product for sensitive skin?
Our entire range has been formulated with sensitive skin in mind. This means that we only use ingredients that we know have a very low probability of causing irritation or allergies – of course anyone can react to anything but we try to minimise the risk by carefully choosing all our ingredients. I have very sensitive skin myself so that’s one of the first tests ingredients have to pass in order to make it into one of our products.
And when it comes to products causing reactions or irritation, usually the culprit is either the preservatives in the formula or the presence of fragrance or essential oils – or all of the above! - so we use a different approach to product preservation. Instead of adding the usual petroleum-derived preservatives that give a 3-year shelf life but are super harsh on sensitive skin, we use ingredients obtained by modern fermentation technology and the power of amazing bacteria strands, and we combine them with amazing preservation boosters, such as Wasabi extract, which not only has moisturising properties but also help preserve our products.
We don’t use synthetic fragrances and we only use essential oils in our body products and in tiny amounts.
What are the product you’d recommend to someone who is trying the brand for the first time?
I’d say start with our Fruit AHAs Exfoliating Mask because this is a 2-in-1 product suitable for any skin type that will give you an amazing, gentle polish and at the same time will nourish your skin. Your skin won’t feel tight and depleted but replenished, reinvigorated and so soft!
What hints/tips do you have for using your products?
- Make sure you thoroughly wash and dry your hands before using our products to avoid introducing contamination in the jars & bottles.
- Always massage skincare products into your skin because this aids absorption and skin penetration.
- Reuse our aluminium jars to store small objects – spices, buttons, needles, craft bits, screws, etc
Do you have any certifications/awards that our customers should be aware of?
We’ve been a Leaping Bunny Approved brand since day one because we feel very strongly against animal cruelty and animal-derived ingredients and we wanted to give customers that extra peace of mind that comes with such a world-wide recognised certification.
We’re also certified Zero Plastic Inside by the Plastic Soup Foundation. This means we don’t use any microplastics or liquid plastics in the formulation of our products. Most people are not aware of the fact that mainstream skincare usually contain liquid polymers, that is, liquid plastics. If you think about it, there are more than 25,000 cosmetic ingredients and the list keeps growing every year so it’s a bit of an impossible task for most customers to be able to spot liquid plastics just by reading a product’s label.
We’ve also been granted the right to carry the “Metal Recycles Forever” mark because we only use 100% reusable and endlessly recyclable aluminium jars and bottles.
We’d love to add a Vegan Trademark because all our ingredients are vegan-friendly and we’d also like to certify as a B Corp. However, the reality for lots of small, independent brands like ours is that you initially operate for a few years guided by their principles but you simply cannot afford to pay for all the certifications you want!
How do you source your ingredients?
When considering sustainable skincare, an often overlooked aspect is the provenance and impact of the ingredients themselves. We choose botanical ingredients and prioritise those that are either waste by-products of other clean companies (upcycled), obtained via modern bacterial fermentation processes or algae-derived.
How are your products made?
We manufacture in-house and in small batches so you always get products that are as fresh as they can be.
How are you tackling sustainability?
As a responsible business we’re constantly reviewing the way the do things in order to advance in our sustainability journey. It could be a big thing, such as creating the FibrePods in order to replace all of our energy-intense cardboard boxes with something that requires no processing and can be re-used. Or it can be an ingredient substitution because we simply found a more sustainable one with comparable performance. There’s always scope for improvement!
What’s the best thing about having your own brand?
I love my job and the fact that not two days are alike. I get to create, innovate, inspire, provoke, disrupt. What’s not to like!
What’s next for Whitfords?
We’re in the process of formulating a cleanser because that’s a product that’s currently missing in our range so that’s very exciting and we’ve got other products that are in the concept stage so keep your eyes peeled for new launches this year.